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How horses (Equus caballus) see the world: humans as significant objects

Carole Fureix
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Martine Hausberger


The aim of this study was to determine whether horses have a kind of memory of humans (based on previous interactions), leading to a general significance of humans revealed by their reactions to humans in subsequent interactions. This hypothesis was tested on 59 adult animals (coming from 3 riding schools with similar life conditions) using three types of behavioural tests, which involved an unknown experimenter and corresponded to three potential memories of the relation (not work-related, using work-related objects, unfamiliar working task). To get a broad overview of the horses’ reactions to humans, we recorded both investigative and aggressive behaviours during the tests, representing respectively a “positive” and a “negative” memory of the relationship. It appeared that while correlations between tests revealed a general perception of humans as positive or negative, unusual tests, i.e. that are not usually performed, elicited more positive reactions. Thus, some horses reacted positively to a motionless person in their box, but negatively when this same person approached them, for example with a halter. In overall, aggressive reactions to the experimenter were more reliable indicators of the relationship than positive reactions. Altogether, the results support the creation of a memory of humans by horses which impacts their reactions in subsequent interactions.
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hal-01354784 , version 1 (19-08-2016)


  • HAL Id : hal-01354784 , version 1


Carole Fureix, Patrick Jégo, Martine Hausberger. How horses (Equus caballus) see the world: humans as significant objects. Behavior 2009 - 31st International Ethological Conference, Aug 2009, Rennes, France. ⟨hal-01354784⟩
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